Citizen science, there's an app for that!

November 28, 2013

Do you have a smart phone? If so, you’re only a few taps away from contributing to international environmental research, thanks to a new app unveiled today.

Coastal Walkabout is an easy-to-use app designed to encourage people of all ages to get out into their local marine, estuarine and near shore environments and take note of the fauna living there. The app can be used to record sightings anywhere in the world.

“If you spot a creature down at the beach, by the river or out on a boat, use the app to take a picture of it,” said Associate Professor Lars Bejder, of Murdoch University.

“The app will automatically take note of the time and location before uploading that data to a website, where it can be freely accessed by anyone all over the world.”

Researchers from Murdoch University (Australia), Duke University (USA) and Marine Ventures Foundation came up with the concept after identifying challenges with data collection in the north-west of Western Australia.

The remote area is a popular location for researchers investigating marine animals in pristine environments, free from the impacts of development and urbanisation.

“Due to the vastness of the area, and the limited time and availability of researchers, accurate data sets are hard to achieve,” Associate Professor Bejder said.

“We realised that there are many other people who use these areas too, so we’re looking to harness this existing ‘people power’ to assist environmental research.”

Western Australia’s Chief Scientist Professor Lyn Beazley has lent her support to the project.

“This tool gives everyone the chance to contribute to something they care about,” she said.

“By incorporating social media platforms, these observations can prompt community discussions about the environment and create a new generation of citizen scientists.”

It’s hoped the technology will be adapted and used by researchers, conservation groups, industry and communities all over the world.

“The concept can be applied to a variety of projects – from teaching children about the local environment, to logging sightings of rare animals, to plotting the progress of pests across an ecosystem,” Associate Professor Bejder said.

Coastal Walkabout is now available for free through the App Store (for Apple devices, including iPhone) and Google Play (for Android devices).

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Comments (2 responses)

Rebecca Glasencnik December 2, 2013

The researchers should (if they haven't done so already) contact the driving adventures groups – the ones that take groups through various remote locations – to encourage them to do this.

Consider mentioning it to military personnel too.

Candice Barnes December 3, 2013

Great idea, thanks Rebecca!

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